(K. Brent Tomer),
How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS. By David France. Knopf; 640 pages; $30. Picador; £25.
NEWS of a fatal new disease affecting gay men first broke in 1981. But it took many years and very many deaths before the public noticed. In New York, the plague’s epicentre, a new case of AIDS was soon being diagnosed every day, yet Ed Koch, the mayor, did next to nothing to prevent its spread. According to a new book, “How to Survive a Plague”, the virus had infected 7,700 people in America by 1984 and killed 3,600, yet a question about it at a White House press conference aroused laughter. It was only in 1985, after Rock Hudson, a Hollywood star, was hospitalised with AIDS, that President Ronald Reagan publicly acknowledged the virus. But he did little to help the epidemic’s largely gay victims. In 1987, after nearly 20,000 Americans had died, he quipped: “When it comes to preventing AIDS, don’t medicine and morality teach the same lessons?”
David France’s masterful account of the epidemic offers plenty of opportunity for outrage. America’s…Continue reading